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Study Tips
Some advice for Beginners
  • 20 minutes a day
    Plan your schedule and set your priority. Studying takes commitment and time. We know most of you are very busy. But if you think learning Chinese is important, you are more likely to find the time when something else crops up. Get your priority right and set aside at least 20 minutes everyday for studying. Make it a habit.

  • Learn anytime, anywhere
    Very often even 20 minutes a day is not easy. Be sure you carry flashcards with you all the time. Review and learn whenever you have a few minutes wherever you are. Try to recall words and phrases you've learn constantly, and look them up with the flashcards whenver you've forgotten something. Flashcards maybe primitive but convenient and very effective in helping you to remember what you have learned. It is good not just for learning characters, but also for key sentences that you learn each week. If you look at your flashcards 4, 5 times a day, you will be surprised how fast you progress.
    Listen to the CD whenever you get a chance, play it in your car, carry a MP3 player and listen whenever you get a chance. This will improve your listening comprehension. Always speak out loud what you hear whenever possible.

  • Set a comfortable pace
    You need to stay focused and committed but don't be over enthusiastic. More is not always better as over enthusiasm may burn you out. Certain things take time to sink in. Keep that in mind when planning your study. You must learn at a comfortable pace to be effective. It is especially important if you plan to study for a longer period of time.

  • Know the purpose of each exercise
    Every activity and exercise you do in class has a purpose, homework too are designed with a purpose. Knowing the purpose will help you stay focused. For example, when an exercise is about pronunciation, you must speak out loud to train your vocal parts. If you don't, your missed the opportunity and the time is not well spent.

  • One task at a time
    Each exercise is designed with a certain degree of difficulty. When you find something too difficult, one likely cause is that you are doing too many unfamiliar things at the same time. For example, when you try to answer a question, you are trying to:

    1. Understand what you hear.
    2. Find the right words.
    3. Form a grammatically correct sentence.
    4. Speak louder than you normally do.
    5. Recalling the right tones.
    6. Speak a sentence longer than you can manage.

    Every element you do not know well increases the difficulty level.

    In order to overcome the difficulties one by one. First ask the questions ... Is it a lack of vocabulary? Is it a problem of grammar? Is it a problem of listening? Etc. Figure out where your difficulty lies and work to overcome the problem one by one.

  • A little bit at a time
    If it's more than we can manage, it's difficult. Limit the content of your study. Don't try to learn 20 words at a time, learn just 5. Don't try to make or speak a very long sentence, start with a short sentence and slowly increase the lenght. This way, you will not find anything difficult.

  • Preview and Review
    Preview and review are crucial parts in the learning process. Proper preview and review will make the lesson more enjoyable and much more effective.

    Preview >> Class >> Review / Homework


    To preview is to learn as much as you can about the next lesson on your own. The better prepared you are for a lesson, the better you are able to focus on speaking when in class. Start by learning the new words (and recognising the characters) by heart.


    What you learn stays in the short term memory. The sooner you review, the lesser time you need to spend reviewing. The more often you review, the more you can commit what you've learned into long term memory. It takes 5 to 9 times of reviewing to achieve that.

    If no review is done after your lesson, you will remember just about 25% of what you've learned after a week. Reviewing once brings the percentage up to 40%; reviewing 2 times brings that to 60% and 3 times to 80%.

    Besides, the sooner you review, the less time it takes to refresh what you've learned.

  • Practice makes perfect
    Repetition is key to speech. As adults, we tend to want to analyze and reason and forget the importance of repetition. This is one main reason why many students study for years and know a lot about the Chinese language yet not able to speak with ease.
    Remember, practice makes perfect. Any phrase or sentence you are able to speak with ease are those you have practised countless times. All of you can say "Nihao" without any thought. It's almost a reflective reaction because you have practised it countless times. Now, count the sentences you can say with ease and work on increasing the list. Repeat, repeat and repeat till you can say it with ease. Practise longer sentences by first practising the smaller parts. And when you practise, remember to speak out real loud.

  • Active participate in class
    Take part in class activities and exercises actively, this is something you cannot do at home.
    Make sure you listen and understand what your classmates say and always speak out loud so that everyone in class can hear you. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
    When the teacher or your classmates speaks, pay attention. Don't do anything else such as copying words from the board or discussing grammar points with your classmates.

  • One phrase a week
    There is nothing as rewarding as putting what we have learned into practice. Use everything you have learned as often as you get a chance to. Isn't this why most of us are learning a language? Take the first step by using one new phrase every week and build on that. It's not easy to open your mouth to speak. Start with short phrases and simple expression. Soon you will be speaking with ease!
    Anything you can say in Chinese must be said in Chinese. The next time when you are in school, greet your classmates in Chinese, ask for the time in Chinese, introduce yourself to schoolmates you do not know or ask for their names, say goodbye in Chinese ...

  • Give feedback
    Tell your teacher how you are doing. The teacher needs to know your progress and your difficulties in order to help you.
    You can also send us a feedback using the feedback form or simply send us an email.

  • Learning characters
    Chinese characters are like little logos, Arabic numeral, traffic signs or mathematical symbols. When you see one, you know exactly what it means and how to pronounce it. Do you remember how you learn your the traffic signs for your driving test? or all the symbols on your computer keyboard? Yes, you learn them by heart! Unfortunately, the Chinese language is based upon thousands of characters. But do not despair, if you spend 10 minutes a day, it is possible to learn 10 - 20 characters in a week. So get going! But how? Here are some methods:
    • Use flash cards.
      A proven method and very effective.
      On one side of the card write the character or word, on the other side write the pinyin and meaning. Carry 20 cards with you and try to practise whenever you get a chance. Look at it, try to remember the meaning and pronounce it.
      To download flash cards for level 101, 102 and 103, go to the Study Material page.
    • Write
      Chinese children learn characters by writing lines after lines and pages after pages, it takes time but it is effective. When you try to write, it is much more effective to write a meaning full word rather than a single character. First write by copying but you should write till you can write without looking. This takes time but everyone should give this a try. Writing is more fun and easier than you think.
    • Other methods
      We remember a character easier when we can associate it with something. For example if you have just learned the word tree (Mù), it takes no effort to remember two wood together which means forest (Lín), and adding yet another wood on top of the two means jungle (Sēn).
      When you combine the words (Mù) and (bú, meaning not/negative) you get the word cup (bēi). You can remember it as "a cup is not made of wood".
      Put a child (zǐ) under a tree and you get the word plum (Lǐ) . You can remember it as "a child sitting under a tree always eats a plum"
      Put a child (zǐ) under a roof and you get the word "character" (zì)
      You can remember it as "Why would a child be sitting at home under the roof? Answer: writing Chinese characters!"
      Now, put a woman under the roof, what do you get? Put a woman next to the child, what do you get? ...

      The number of stroke of a character, its radical, its shape, when you learn it, where you learn it, etc can all help you to remember. Be creative and imaginative when making associations. It doesn't have to be logical either, often ridiculous association create a deeper impression. For example, think of the word as the king with a pimple (the dot) sitting in his palace (the wall around).

      You can remember the word king (王 wáng) as 1 person with 3 (三 sān) guards.

      If you are not so imaginative, there are many books that could help. Look at the character book in our book shop.

Study tips in brief:

  • 20 minutes a day
  • Learn anytime, anywhere
  • Set a comfortable pace
  • Know the purpose
  • One task at a time
  • A little bit at a time
  • Preview and review
  • Practice makes perfect
  • Active participation
  • One phrase a week
  • Give feedback

Student Support

We are here to help!

When you are facing difficulties in your study, do not hesitate to talk to your teacher.

Outside the classroom, you can seek advice from Thian or simply send us a feedback (see link in left column).

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